Monday, April 20, 2015

Which rope ladder design should we use to enable learning of child?

Here is a beautiful symbol of teacher-centric education. Watch this rope ladder put in a school. Do you think the child will learn to climb the ladder? At the end of six months, how many children do you think must have climbed this ladder?

Teacher-centric design: Rope ladder with granite flooring

Answer: This design almost guarantees that no child will learn to climb the rope ladder. In six months, not a single child could climb the rope ladder. Why ? 

One, because the floor is granite, the teacher wants to help the child to climb the ladder every time so that the fall may not hurt him so much. This dependency cripples the child in choosing his own time to climb. Two, because the teacher is helping ( we call it teaching ) the child to climb, the child never learns when to leave the rope with his hand or when to push his legs to climb the next rung even though the teacher may instruct him. Three, until he does it repetitively, the child will never build enough 'muscle strength' to balance his body. But the child cannot do this repetitively, because he has to depend on you every time to attempt it. Four, the child even if he had initial confidence, slowly loses his confidence that he can do it on his own and then becomes over-dependent on you while climbing. This is the final nail in the coffin of learning.  

Now, let us change the design a bit. The ground is of sand. 

Student-centric design: Rope ladder with sand flooring

Now the child can climb on his own. With no help from teacher, the child can learn to coordinate his hands and legs faster.  More importantly, the child can do this repetitively as many times as she wishes. This helps the child to build her muscle strength making it more and more easier to climb. At the end of six months, more than 50% of the child were climbing the rope ladder upto 5 steps. Some were climbing upto 2 steps. (By the way, this is the real record of a school where this was installed) 

Lesson : Design the ' education system' to enable learning

In education, the design is the most important element, not teachers, nor curriculum ( SSC, CBSE, ICSE or...) nor infrastructure ( e-learning, computers), nor extra curricular activities ( like horse riding, swimming or). All these elements are 'tools' to achieve the final end-objective of enabling learning of the child.

Take the 4 design elements of new rope ladder design. 1>You simply must give 'freedom' to the child to climb as many times as he/she wishes. You do not need a 'class of rope climbing' at fixed time and of fixed interval. 2> You need 'fail-safe' method to ensure that even failed trials will not physically harm the child. More importantly, you need a system of not punishing the child after his failed attempts. Because, if you punish his mistakes, he will stop trying. 3> You need to give freedom to repeat it as long as the child masters the climbing. Not when you want him to stop climbing 4> And you do not need 'grading' system to find who climbed how many steps. Only when the child wants to become an expert climber, you may set up a 'grading' system to measure his progress. Or you may hire 'experts' to train him. In other words, the system should be 'customisable' for a student. In short, student-centric.

Where are the designers of education system please? Schools do not need smart teachers, or sophisticated technology, or brilliant infrastructure to help the child. We want designers who can 'put' all this elements - teachers, technology, infrastructure -  together in enabling learning of the child, and not to perform better teaching. 

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